R.E.A.L. Youth Initiative was founded at a juvenile prison in 2018. While both incarcerated at the age of 19 years old, DB and DP discussed the idea of launching a program that organizes and builds power with people who have been through similar experiences to themselves. After participating in programs in prison and facilitating and leading circles themselves while incarcerated, they recognized a need for building an organization that appeals to street-involved and system-impacted youth and prioritizes their safety and well-being. Not only did they envision this organization run and directed by those who have experienced and understand what it’s like to have been in the streets and faced periods of incarceration, but they also envisioned this organization working towards the dismantling of the conditions that lead to poverty, violence, and incarceration.
This vision founded the R.E.A.L. Youth Initiative. Through inside programming at three juvenile prisons (IYC-Warrenville, IYC-St. Charles, and IYC-Chicago) and community reentry programs, R.E.A.L. develops revolutionary consciousness with currently and formerly incarcerated youth towards abolition of prisons and the conditions that (re)produce them.
R.E.A.L. understands that youth who are or have been street-involved face a myriad of threats to their safety as they return home from prison stemming from the predatory dynamics and deadly politics of capitalism, police, and prisons. As an organization, R.E.A.L. strives to build spaces for currently and formerly incarcerated youth to be themselves safely around people who share similar life experiences. In this way, R.E.A.L. seeks to be a maroon community for directly-impacted people - akin to the communities of enslaved people who freed themselves and formed safe community on the outskirts of slave society. In the words of George Jackson, R.E.A.L. “sees a refuge, a place where people live and love.”
At the same time, integral to R.E.A.L. programming is the development of revolutionary consciousness and commitment to building abolitionist communities with directly impacted youth. Through workshops on topics including but not limited to anti-capitalism and socialism, revolutionary movement history, abolition of the gender binary, anti-patriarchy, and anti-colonialism/anti-imperialism, we seek to transform individual experiences of oppression into revolutionary community that fights to dismantle the root causes of all oppression.
We onboard all REAL spaces by discussing Fred Hampton’s speech “On Revolution and Racism” and proceed to close out all future REAL spaces with a call and response of “I am a revolutionary!”